Modern life is pretty far removed from the life in which we were raised evolutionary. That’s not to say that the lives we with are unnatural, because by definition, as natural creatures, everything we do is natural. However, the lives we live are radically different to the natural environment, and we are causing many problems with the rest of nature. We need to learn to adapt differently within our environments before we ruin the planet for ourselves and for many other animals too. Is this possible? I certainly think so.
Most of our current environmental problems have roots in the industrial revolution. This is when we really learned how to use the environment in ways that were highly efficient (in terms of providing for us) but also highly damaging. For instance, with the advent of large machines, we were able to produce things at a much faster rate, and consequently in larger volumes. However, at the same time many of these processes used fossil fuels, which have led to widespread environmental damage. It seems that many of the things that we do to try to make our lives better, have unexpected consequences that make our lives worse. In order to succeed as a species, we need to establish practices that provide without causing problems.
Fortunately, we are starting to do this. There are many things that humans are attempting to do to ensure that resources are used correctly, and that they are returned to nature, rather than being absorbed and transformed. A great example of this is our current focus on green technologies. Green technologies are those that create no problems for the environment.
It is a balancing of give and take: we give back what we take. Ideally, we would have technologies that use natural products, without changing these products too much. A great example of this is wind power. We now have wind turbines supplying us with great amounts of energy. Here, we don’t take anything away from nature: the wind is blowing anyway. We may have some influence of the wind – for example, we will be changing air currents, but hopefully these changes are so minimal that their effects pose no more danger than, say, the presence of a mountain on air flow.
As we move through the 21st century, we are finding more and more ways of harnessing the natural powers of the planet. We hope, that the end result is a contained and balanced system. If we carry on this good work, our planet will recover from the damage we did during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Another area in which we can live more compatibly with nature is in regards to health. Modern living has been disastrous on our health. You only have to look around to see the effects: obesity, higher rates of respiratory disease, diabetes, lung problems, cancer, etc. Many of these are much worse in the modern world, and much of this is due to the introduction of chemicals to our environments. However, the tide is turning here too. Today, we are starting to focus much more strongly on our health requirements: we are trying to regulate the food chain, and prevent the mass production of cheap, and damaging food. This is still in its infancy, but in the coming decades we will expect legislation to come into force to prevent the larger supermarkets selling poor quality foods.
In conclusion, there is hope for us yet, and the tides are turning. A few centuries down the line and they’ll be looking at us and wondering how we ever lived this way.
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